Tuesday, March 18, 2008

6 basic steps involved in most civil lawsuits

1. Pleadings -- the case begins by filing a document necessary to identify the parties - the party suing and the party being sued, explain what the lawsuit is about (divorce, tort, etc.) and ask the court to do something - such as grant a divorce or give you money. 2. Service - You have to properly notify the person that he/she is being sued. It is normally obtained by preparing a summons (paying the county some money to prepare a proper legal summons) and having it delivered to the defendant (or respondent in a divorce) by a person approved by the county - usually a sheriff or a private process server. 3. Discovery - Both sides have to gather facts and information to prepare their case. Discovery can involved examing documents, records, and other pieces of physical evidence as well as taking depositions (statements transcribed by a court reporter) from witnesses or the parties theremselves. The person asking for the depositions has to pay for it. The court reporters normally charge per page. For an entire day of questioning, it can easily run over $1,000 just for the court reporter's time. You have to properly ask for the information you want or the other side does not have to let you see it. If they refuse to let you see it, then you can file a document with the court and set a hearing for the Judge to hear why you should have it. Written discovery can easily cost over $1,000 for a simple case. The more complex the case, the more discovery and depositions cost. 4. Pretrial motions - If the parties need the ocurt to make procedural decisons or other rulings as the case moves along toward trial, they do so by filing the appropriate motions with the court. 5. Trial - The court hears the evidence offered by both sides and decides issues on boht face and law during this process. Either side can ask for the jury trial. It normally delays the trial for up to a year or more. 6. Enforcing the judgment - If you win, you still have to collect what you won. You need to do something to get the money or the property. In Texas garnishment of wages is very limited - the IRS, child support, and spousal support can be garnished. If you win a lawsuit and the person is broke, then you have a lovely piece of paper that you can frame.

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